Where Does The Time Go?
“I have to tell you there’s just no words 2 Express how much your non-judgemental
smiles and your caring for us means not just to [name deleted] and I but
all the people that you help.”
Part of an email shared by a caregiver after our July COVID Emergency Giveaway
I heard a comedian talk about how the months are blending together during the pandemic. That is just how I feel. However, our work at COIPP grows as the needs of our families grow. Each month has different highlights. Below I have tried to capture just some of them for the past month.
Resource Box Distribution- COIPP keeps struggling with how we keep our children engaged academically when schools are out and individual family resources may be dwindling. A highlight of July was the continuation of our Resource Box Distribution. Thanks to many groups, including the Delaplaine Foundation, the Helen J Serini Foundation, the United Way Emergency Relief Fund, the Frederick City COVID Emergency Fund, the Ausherman Foundation, and more, we were able to continue our work distributing high quality resources to our COIPP families. As of this writing, just about all 80 boxes of It All Adds Up, our mathematics themed box, have been mailed out to our families. Each included hands on mathematics materials and a wide array of books on numbers, counting, and mathematical processes. Thanks once again to The Dancing Bear Toy Store and The Curious Iguana Book Store. The contents were configured to fit the ages of the children receiving them. Families love them! We are already in the planning stage for the next boxes which will be all about science.
COVID Emergency Giveaway- COIPP has long known the importance of meeting the needs of our families during COVID. A number of months ago we came up with a substitution for our regular Sharing Fairs, in the past held outside the jail 6 times a year. We decided to put together bags of family resources. The theme of our distribution differs according to the month. In July we stood outside the old Kmart on Route 40, socially distancing, and handed out bags of kitchen goods, such as paper towels, toilet paper, sanitizer, and more. We had diapers and wipes, and art supplies for the children. In addition, everyone was surprised with a $150 Wal Mart gift card for necessities. We started this monthly activity in April and the number of participating families keeps growing. There were huge “thank you” statements and tears as families received just what they needed. Our thanks go out to Cathy Anderson, Cindi Diamondstone, and Gretta Benson for joining me. However, the organizing and planning kudos go to Gretta Benson, Pat Einhorn and Susan Guissinger. They are AMAZING!!!
Respite Via Zoom- COIPP thought it could not be done, but it was! Last year we had started holding Respite Meetings at the Head Start and PAL Center in Frederick. When COVID hit, we stopped our plans to meet with caregivers. Once July rolled around, we decided to call together some of our caregivers and see if they could meet via Zoom. It worked! We held a terrific meeting, asking the participants how they were doing, what they needed, and how we could keep on meeting by long distance. Our caregivers shared how thankful they are for all COIPP has done, but they also shared new ideas, even via distancing. The feedback was so great, we already are in the midst of planning for our next event to be held this month. Many thanks to those who put this together. With me were Cindi Diamondstone and Cathy Anderson. Special kudos go to Larissa Metzger who organized the meeting, got in touch with the caregivers, and made it happen.
Summer Art Activities- COIPP is a team effort. One of our amazing volunteers is Gretta Benson. She has long known that many of our older children need more. She put together an art supply kit and kicked off a summer of art projects for children over 10. Every few days she emails thoughts about the use of the materials.They are creative ideas that really get to the core of a child’s feelings and self expression. We cannot wait to highlight some of the creations over the next few months.
Supporting Those In Jail– COIPP has greatly missed our work in the jail, a key to COIPP success. For the past few months, there have been no jail visitations. This means that Parenting From Afar classes are not happening, nor are visits for the children. This month we kept up our support from a distance. Pre-stamped postcards were distributed twice this month so that those in jail can stay in touch with their children. Theresa Posthuma and I also put money on the commissary account of each person in jail who has taken our parenting classes in the past. We know from all of the research that the key to keeping recidivism away is to keep those in jail connected to their families, especially their children. Our aim is to help keep the families connected.
Workshop on Feelings- COIPP always works to support the caregivers. During “normal” times, I have the honor of doing workshops on a variety of topics throughout Frederick. The pandemic stopped this from happening. I decided that there had to be a way for us to do this from a distance. Voila, July marked my first try, and it was highly successful. We held a workshop for moms and grandmas from the Frederick Judy Center. The topic was “Feelings,” exactly what was needed during these difficult times for children. We talked about Adverse Childhood Experiences, the importance of talking about feelings, listening to children and strategies for helping them cope during difficult times. These are two session workshops, and always end with the distribution of children’s books on the topic being discussed. The final one is this week, but I know from the feedback that Session 1 was a great success. Additional workshop dates are already on the books. This happens with the support of our FIIP program, our collaborative project with the Frederick Mental Health Association.
Additional July happenings include: writing of COVID emergency grants, with special thanks to Pat Rosensteel for her hard work; constant planning for COIPP’s future, with and without COVID, with kudos to Sally Smith and Pat Rosensteel; smooth turnover of our treasurer’s duties, with Teresa Posthuma soaring to the task; completion of 72 children’s read-alouds, with special kudos to Howie Scher for his hard work editing, and continued work on workshop development, thanks to weekly working meetings with Marisel Torres-Crespo, Cindi Diamondstone, Kathy Anderson and myself.
These are only some highlights from July. However, as I reflect back, I think one of my most important takeaways from the month has been the ability to pivot from regular activities and use creative ways to meet needs. I have learned that our families are willing to try technology, meet from a distance, pick up resources, and be creative, so that they can assist their children during tough times. Despite COVID, July was a very productive month for COIPP!!!
Shari (Ostrow Scher)